‘Once Upon A Time’ S2 premiere recap: While you were sleeping

S2 Ep 1
Charming makes a promise to Henry: “I will find them. I will always find them.” (Photo credit: ABC)

“Broken” delivered one invigorating roller coaster ride full of heartwarming reunions, carefully plotted acts of revenge, mind-blowing revelations, and the promise of more great adventures.

The second season premiere exemplifies a skill that ‘Once Upon A Time’ mastered last season when each episode would gracefully weave back-and-forth between the fairytale past and Storybrooke’s present. In its sophomore year, show runners, Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, said they will introduce a new time-frame that adds a third strand of the brilliant braid that makes ‘Once’ so magically complex and spellbinding. Don’t worry, all of that is explained by the end of “Broken.” However, it helps to start from the beginning of season 2, moments after Emma broke the curse and Rumpy unleashed magic upon the enchanted citizens of Storybrooke.

The episode opens in unfamiliar territory as we watch a man rush through busy city streets as he makes his way back to his apartment. At first you may think this is the wrong show. The dark-haired gentleman enters his home and tries closing his window. It won’t budge and he drops his cell phone down the fire escape during the struggle. Moments later, a dove flies onto his windowsill and delivers a postcard from Storybrooke. The card simply says, “Broken.” Could this be Rumple’s son, Baelfire? Who else could know about the curse and live outside of Storybrooke? Since we know Captain Hook is coming, could this be a grown-up version of Peter Pan (kind of like Pinocchio)? Surely we will learn this man’s identity at any moment…nope, don’t hold your breath. This mystery is placed on the back-burner and we are introduced to ‘Once’s’ newest fairytale characters and treated to the aftermath of Storybrooke’s long-awaited reunions.

Fairytale Land: “Everything he does, he does it for you.”

Our first fairytale flashback of the season depicts a much darker and more depraved land than the one we’ve come to know. Sleeping Beauty rests on her tomb-like bed in the center of a palace that has crumbled around her. Prince Phillip and Mulan approach Aurora. As Phillip prepares to kiss his beloved princess, he asks Mulan not to tell her about everything that has happened while she was sleeping. The devastating information will be too much, too soon and Mulan agrees. Phillip kisses Aurora, sending the curse-breaking shockwaves of True Love throughout the kingdom as the princess awakes from her slumber.

Aurora asks Phillip about Maleficent (the Evil Queen’s frenemy and part-time fire-breathing dragon). Without revealing too much, Phillip says they have new dangers to fear, but there is no need to worry because the people of Fairytale Land have found a new safe haven. With that said, the threesome is suddenly confronted by one of those aforementioned new dangers.

A cloaked skeleton with red eyes breezes in like a banshee and attacks the trio, leaving a mark on Phillip’s hand. He claims to be unharmed and they all retreat into the woods for safety. While venturing through the woods, Mulan tells Aurora that what they encountered is a wraith, a soul sucker known for damning souls for eternity. The ladies are glad no one was harmed because there is no salvation once you have been marked. After a while, Mulan suggests they set up camp and rest in the woods because the wraith appears when the light goes. Aurora wants to keep moving, but Phillip urges her to listen to Mulan. He tells Aurora to get some sleep, but that is the last she wants to do. Phillip tells her how much he loves her and says he will be back in five minutes after gathering some wood to build a fire. Before he leaves, Phillip passionately kisses Aurora and as he walks away from her, tears trickle down his cheek.

After Phillip has been gone for a while, Aurora checks on Mulan and discovers that she is building the fire. They realize that Phillip has left because he was marked by the wraith. Mulan hurries to find him before it’s too late and she refuses to let Aurora tag along. Mulan gallops away, leaving Aurora in the dust.

When we return to Fairytale Land, Aurora has caught up with Mulan. The ladies have their first real conversation alone and they begin to understand each other a little better. Aurora was surprised and skeptical when she first discovered that her handsome prince had been on quest with another woman. Given Mulan’s explanation, Aurora’s instincts may have been correct. Mulan promised Phillip that she would protect his princess and she doesn’t intend on letting him down now. She resentfully informs Aurora, “Everything he does, he does it for you….he is going to die for you.” Bitter much? Aurora calls Mulan out on her true feelings, observing how the warrior princess has fallen in love with Phillip. Motivated by unyielding love, the two princesses put their differences aside and strive to save Phillip.

They stumble upon him in the woods, trying to attract the wraith to him. Phillip loves Aurora so deeply and respects Mulan so much that he is prepared to sacrifice himself to save their lives. The heartbroken women watch as the wraith sucks Phillip’s soul. Later, we see that Mulan and Aurora have returned Phillip’s body to the palace. We spot Rumplestiltskin’s spinning wheel at his feet, as the ladies mourn their loss. Mulan hands Aurora the wraith’s medallion and finally describes what happened while she was sleeping.

The Evil Queen’s curse froze time in Fairytale Land, just as it had in Storybrooke. She warns of more fearsome dangers that surfaced over the past 28 years, but they were also able to find a safe haven. Suddenly, Mulan and Aurora hear something stirring in the palace rubble…but we’ll get back to that in a bit.

Storybrooke: “I will always find them.”

Snow White and Prince Charming break out of their embrace and they rush over to their friends. Ruby, Granny, Charming, and Snow happily hug each other, ecstatic to recall the intense history they have shared. Suddenly, the Seven Dwarfs turn the corner and greet Snow as “Your Highness” and bow to her. Awwww! They ask what she wants to do and without hesitation she says she must find her daughter. Emma surfaces behind her in shock and utters, “It’s true.” Ginnifer Goodwin shines in this moment when she holds Emma’s face in her hands and hugs her tightly with joyful tears gently streaming down her face. Charming quickly joins in on the family hug and the “Charming’s” musical score begins playing in the background, daring you not to cry. Henry calls out, “Grandpa?!” and joins the family reunion as P.C. laughs. Once they compose themselves, they are prepared to get down to business and figure out a course of action.

They ask the Blue Fairy about the purple smoke and she confirms that it is magic, but she can’t do anything to help because magic is complicated in this world, especially without her wand and fairy dust. They assume Regina unleashed magic, but Emma tells them Rumple is the one who brought magic back. As they head out to find Rumpy, Snow tries talking to Emma, but her daughter delays the conversation saying they can catch up over wine later. While they track down Rumpy in town, we see where Belle and the Rump left off in the woods.

Belle explains how Regina held her captive in a cell in Storybrooke for the past 28 years and Rumple wants Regina to pay for the pain she has caused. However, Belle wants Rumpy to promise that he will not kill Regina in cold-blooded revenge. His promise is the only way they can be together, so he promises and takes her to his shop to freshen up. After all of these years, we see that Rumpy has kept Belle’s teacup Chip, but he walks past the cup to retrieve another object. He takes out the wraith’s medallion and heads back to the woods. Meanwhile, Emma and Co. are diverted over to Regina’s house.

Jiminy Cricket runs to the Charmings and pleads for their help. Dr. Whale worked everyone into frenzy, so the townspeople are aiming to ambush and most-likely kill Regina. Regardless of what Regina has done, they cannot let her die. Adding a cherry on top, young Henry asks Emma to promise to protect Regina because he still thinks of her as his mom. The preview clip revealed the beginning of this scene when Whale confronts Regina and she realizes her magic powers don’t work in Storybrooke. Up against a powerless Regina, Whale presses her against the wall and just before he crushes her windpipe with his forearm, the Charmings and Co. barge in to save the day.

Whale fiercely commands P.C. to back off. Whale says, “You are not my prince,” and refuses to reveal his true identity when Charming asks who he is (no worries, that will be covered in episode 5). Snow White tells the angry mob that they are not murderers and should not kill Regina. Snow believes she should be locked up for everyone’s safety, including Regina’s. As acting sheriff, Emma takes Regina back to the station and locks her in a cell.

At the station, P.C. asks for answers about why they are all stranded in Storybrooke and Regina reveals that there is nothing to return to in Fairytale Land. Hoping Rumple will have some answers, the Charmings head out to find him and leave Regina alone in her cell. Regina tries to magically open the lock and grows frustrated when her powers fail again. Suddenly, the Rump strolls in to serve Regina a cold dish of revenge. She assumes he will simply kill her, but he says he will not break his promise to Belle. He has another sort of punishment in store for Regina, something that has “a fate worse than death.” With a malicious glimmer in his eyes, Rumpy explains how destiny cannot be escaped and taunts that Regina’s destiny has just become “particularly unpleasant.” He then presses the wraith’s medallion against Regina’s hand and marks her for unavoidable death. Rumple leaves the doomed Regina and heads into the woods to finish the job.

Holding his “Rumplestiltskin” dagger in the air, he drops the medallion on the dirt and, as “The Dark One,” he summons the soul-sucking wraith to appear. As the wraith rises, his presence activates the mark on Regina’s hand, sending the wraith on a hunt for his latest victim. Meanwhile, Emma has Red keep Henry safe before the Charming family heads out to see Rumpy.

As Henry and Red drive off, Snow is anxious to speak with Emma. Charming urges her to be patient, humorously saying, “Don’t push it Snow.” However, she can’t help herself. Snow insists on talking to Emma as mother and daughter. She knows they’ve chatted before, even about inappropriate things like one-night stands. To which P.C. is shocked, Snow hilariously shrugs it off as one night with Whale and they were cursed, nonetheless, Charming isn’t happy about it. Snow just feels like Emma is unhappy with whom her parents are and Emma honestly explains her point of view. She understands why they sent her away for the greater good as leaders, heroes, etc. But, the bottom line is that Emma was alone for 28 years, feeling that her parents cast her off. Snow just wanted to protect her from the curse, but to Emma, being alone was a curse. She would have rather been cursed with her family, than feel abandoned. Emma just needs some time to deal with it all. In the meantime, they head out to get answers from Rumpy.

Emma and her parents storm into Gold’s shop and demand an explanation for what he has done. In typical humorous Rumple fashion, he cheekily avoids giving any answers. Emma expresses her desire to just punch him the face, but he feels he deserves a thank you instead. Rumpy recaps their agreement and how he helped Emma find her parents, break the curse, and protect Henry. He will not tell them why he wanted to bring magic back, but he does admit that magic has helped him destroy Regina. As the wraith begins wreaking havoc upon Storybrooke, Snow and Charming tell Emma they should get to Regina before it is too late. Emma warns Rumple that this isn’t over and he agrees, reminding Emma that she still owes him a favor. Once the Charmings leave, Belle enters from the back room and confronts Rumpy on his lies.

Belle tells Rumpy that he lied to her again, he “toys with words” and people, and he is “still a man who makes wrong choices.” She hoped he had changed over the past 28 years. Although he says he is sorry, Rumple doesn’t seem to care to change. Belle walks out of the shop, leaving Rumpy alone. Meanwhile, the Charmings rush to save Regina from the wraith.

The wraith starts sucking the life from Regina, Charming tries bashing it with a chair, the wraith remains unharmed and P.C. flies across the room. The wraith continues sucking Regina’s soul, so Snow takes a spray can and lighter and torches the wraith, which sends him bursting out the window. Regina says there is no way to kill something that is already dead. P.C. suggests they just let Regina die, but Emma says she can’t break her promise to Henry. Regina seems sincerely moved by Henry’s desire to protect her and reveals another way they protect themselves from the wraith.

Regina retrieves Jefferson’s hat, which Emma recognizes. Regina plays dumb when Emma asks about Jefferson and his daughter, shifting her focus back on their task at hand. P.C. and Snow enter with brooms to use as torches. Charming teases that torches may be old fashioned, but then again, so is he. Snow and P.C. stand guard while Regina spins the hat with Emma beside her. As the wraith closes in on them, Emma briefly touches Regina’s arm, suddenly purple magic is infused into the hat and the portal opens. The wraith and Emma are sucked into Fairytale Land. Snow watches her daughter vanish into the abyss and vows never to lose her again, so she jumps in after Emma. Charming leaps to follow in after his wife and daughter, but the portal closes and he lands on the checkered floor. Near tears, P.C. asks Regina where they disappeared to and she claims she doesn’t know. Charming says he should have killed her when he had the chance and Regina fearlessly corners him against the wall.

Regina dismisses Charming’s threat, pointing out that he is merely the son of a shepherd and she should have killed him years ago. Regina then magically shoots vines out of the wall and she straps Charming down, slowly strangling him by tightening the vine around his throat. Henry and Red hurry in and stop Regina from killing P.C. With grave disappointment, Henry tells Regina that she truly is the Evil Queen. Regina denies it and wants Henry back, but he insists that she must prove that she loves him by getting Emma and Snow White back home. Until she finds them, Henry wants Regina to leave him and everyone else alone. Regina worries about where Henry will stay and Charming says he will take care of his grandson. Meanwhile, Belle returns to Rumpy in hopes of finding some good that still exists in him.

Rumple is working on his spindle when Belle walks in and she is touched to discover that he has kept her chipped tea cup all of these years. Rumpy confesses that Chip is the only thing he “truly cherishes” in his shop. He urges Belle to leave him because he will not change. He earnestly says, “Despite what you hope…I’m still a monster.” Belle believes that is exactly why she needs to stay, perhaps her presence will be a positive influence on Rumpy. While Belle settles in with Rumple, Charming and Henry return to Snow’s home.

Henry stares at a photo of Emma and Snow, wondering if he will ever see them again. Charming assures his grandson that they will all see each other again because he has faith that Emma and Snow are still alive. Continuing last season’s repeated pledge, Charming makes Henry a promise, “I will find them. I will always find them.” Cue the goosebumps!

Crossing Over: Storybrooke meets Fairytale Land

So where did Emma and Snow White end up when they fell through the portal? It turns out that Mulan and Aurora discover mother and daughter buried under the palace wreckage in Fairytale Land. Mulan blames them for bringing the wraith into their world and killing Prince Phillip. Will she make them pay or will she realize that she has just found Snow White and the one destined to break Regina’s curse?

We’ll just have to wait until Sunday to find out…

So, what happens now? Will Emma and Snow find a way back to Storybrooke? Can other characters follow them there? How did Phillip and Mulan meet? What was life like in Fairytale Land during the curse? Who is the mystery man in the beginning with the carrier-dove postcard?

Can’t wait to see what happens this season. The premier did a great job of raising a lot of interesting questions that will keep us coming back for more. What were your favorite moments from “Broken”? Were you disappointed by anything that was or was not in the episode (i.e. August/Pinocchio)? Share your thoughts below!


  • Rumplestiltskin and the Evil Queen: Robert Carlyle and Lana Parrilla are brilliant in their respective roles. Their scenes together are always intense and delightful to watch. You find yourself hating them one minute and cheering for them in the next. Parrilla is equally convincing when she tenderly looks upon Henry with love and then fiercely threatens the townspeople for turning on her. The moment when she was touched to hear how Henry still cares about her made you question if she might actually change for her son. Clearly, she is still bad to the bone when she doesn’t hesitate to kill poor Charming. Henry’s ultimatum will serve as a true test to see if Regina is capable of sincerity and true love. Similarly, Carlyle has brought such a like-ability and charisma to Rumpy that makes you enjoy watching him be so bad because he does it with style. It is heartbreaking to see how he truly loves Belle and still chooses to do wrong things in his life. Perhaps a child’s love (Baelfire) combined with Belle’s optimistic adoration will put Rumpy back on the right track.
  • The Wraith: Where did this villain come from? It seems more Grimm than classic fairytale. Plus, with the caliber of actors ‘Once’ has, it seems a shame to waste an opportunity for a great villainous role on a mediocre CGI phantom. The whole thing just didn’t feel like ‘Once Upon A Time’ and it was honestly disappointing. Surely, the wraith will serve a greater purpose in the mythology, but a damned soul-sucking entity sounds more ‘Supernatural’ than ‘Once.’ Guess, we just have to see how it plays out. What do you think? Did you like the wraith? Were you caught off guard by it?
  • What a world: Well “complicated” may be an understatement…We are juggling different time periods and multiple realms, all of which are interconnected. So we have pre-curse Fairytale Land, cursed F.L. and now the post-curse disaster zone that Emma and Snow have fallen into. Meanwhile, we have seen cursed and post-cursed Storybrooke, but we don’t know what the town was like or if it even existed before Regina’s curse. Dr. Whale also notes the major difference between kingdoms within Fairytale Land when he claims Charming is not his prince and in turn, Charming has no clue who Whale is. So, how many kingdoms are there? Were they all affected by the curse? Can they enter Storybrooke if they come from Fairytale Land? Do they know if Storybrooke exists? “Once’ has given itself a difficult challenge by creating so many places and points in time, but they’ve managed to make sense of it so far and will most likely reveal everything in a clear and interesting way this season.
  • Fairytale Mash-Up: ‘Once’ is taking some great risks by trying to shake things up, but they left us in the dark regarding how these fairytale characters came together. Mulan and Sleeping Beauty is an unusual combo. We have no idea how Phillip and Mulan met, so their pairing still doesn’t make much sense. Even Aurora was surprised to see her prince working with another princess. On top of that, Mulan fell in love with Phillip, which kind of makes things awkward. ‘Once’ did a great job of revealing how Snow and Red became friends and how Belle fell for a beastly Rumple, but the lack of history in this case is annoying. Phillip is also the third fairytale character ‘Once’ has presumably killed off. First the Huntsman/Sheriff Graham, then Pinocchio, and now Prince Phillip: is anyone safe? Can magic bring them back to life? Will we ever know how Mulan and Phillip started working together? What did you think of the pairing and interpretation of these two tales?
  • Does Emma have magic powers?: Jefferson’s hat didn’t open the portal until Emma touched Regina’s arm. Does Emma have some kind of magical power? Can she transfer her ability onto others? Regina couldn’t activate the magic hat on her own, but with Emma’s magic touch, her powers seem to have gotten a boost- at least enough of a boost to tie Charming down with a bunch of vines. Will Emma have any magical influence in the post-curse Fairytale Land? Is she once again the key to saving fairytale survivors?

Stay tuned for the latest ‘Once Upon A Time’ news and more!

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